When there was all the talk of you [Slack] killing email, I have to admit I thought it was the email problem you were attacking, not just the email platform. Which is to say, I thought you were providing some relief from the torrential influx of messages, alerts, and notifications I was receiving on a daily basis. “Me + Slack = Fewer distractions and more productivity,” I thought at the time.
I have to say, though, that I’ve since found it to be the opposite. I’m finding that “always on” tendency to be a self-perpetuating feedback loop: the more everyone’s hanging out, the more conversations take place. The more conversations, the more everyone’s expected to participate. This really lowers the bar for what’s considered message-worthy to begin with.
Even your summaries of each week — the ones where you remind me about how our relationship is going — are all predicated on its volume of messages, which was kind of the opposite of what I thought you and I were all about.
(1) This is a poignant example of a company mistaking user engagement for customer success. Samuel adopted Slack because he thought it would make him more productive. But Slack measures its success by user engagement (the volume of messages), which conflicts with its users’ goal to become more productive.
(2) This problem is widespread. The tech industry has mastered how to maximize user engagement, but we often lose sight of the real goal — to empower users to achieve something worthwhile. Scientific studies show that Facebook, the most successful consumer product ever built as measured by daily users, makes people less happy. We’ve made content consumption irresistible with bite-size snacking and alluring headlines, but have dumbed down content in the process. And we’ve developed addictive games which, after extended periods of usage, leave people feeling empty and purposeless.
(3) How can product managers avoid mistaking user engagement for customer success? (i) Research the Job To Be Done and articulate it explicitly. This provides a definition of customer success. (ii) List the key requirements for users to get the job done. (iii) Even if you can’t measure customer success directly, and need to use a proxy for customer success such as user engagement, ensure that every product decision is justified in terms of the Job To Be Done and customer success.
(4) Cf. The key metric for your startup must satisfy these 4 criteria.